State approves sales ban of high-alcohol beverages in Everett

EVERETT — The sale of potent alcoholic beverages in stores in some Everett neighborhoods will soon be illegal.

On Wednesday the state Liquor and Cannabis Board approved the city of Everett’s application to permanently designate an alcohol impact area.

That means a list of 20 high-octane drinks will no longer be permitted in much of the city’s commercial corridor.

“I believe it’s going to make a positive difference,” said Everett Police Lt. Bruce Bosman. “This is one part of a much bigger system of initiatives that we hope will make a positive impact in our city.”

The new area takes effect Oct. 22, to give retailers the time to either return or sell of their remaining inventory of those proscribed products.

Under state law, municipalities can ban the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, provided the bans target specific products and areas. Alcohol impact areas have been created in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Olympia.

The move to enact the ban stems from the city’s 2014 Community Streets Initiative, which compiled a list of more than 60 policy recommendations to ameliorate Everett’s problems with chronic homelessness, addiction and street nuisances. The targeted trouble includes littering and public inebriation.

As a prelude to asking the state for a permanent ban, at first the city asked retailers in the designated parts of the city to refrain from selling those beverages, which include malt liquors and “ice” beers such as Olde English 800, Four Loko, Joose, Mike’s Harder Lemonade and Steel Reserve.

Those types of products are inexpensive, potent and often favored by Everett’s chronically homeless, according to city officials.

The voluntary approach didn’t work, however. By the end of the year, Bosman told the City Council that only 15 of the 101 businesses in the impact area had stopped selling the beverages, and that alcohol-related emergency calls from the area had only dropped 10 percent.

The city then petitioned the Liquor and Cannabis Board to make the proscription mandatory.

Karen McCall, the senior rules and policy coordinator, told the board that the agency received four letters of support and three in opposition to the proposed Everett impact area.

“Most of the banned beers on the list are popular beers for all regular customers. Homeless people are not the only kinds of people drinking these kinds of beers,” wrote Jung Ik Kim, the owner of Lucky Mart on Evergreen Way.

The ban on sales is limited to stores in certain geographic areas, corresponding to much of downtown, north Broadway, Evergreen Way and areas near Cascade High School out toward the airport.

The city has no enforcement power of its own, and would have to rely on the board to maintain compliance.

Everett also will need to demonstrate the continued need for the rule every year. The boundaries and list of proscribed beverages could change as well.

“We have to validate our need for it every year,” Bosman said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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